We face a very interesting challenge in avodas Hashem during this pandemic Throughout the ages, we proudly davened with a minyan even at the risk of life and limb. Thus, we had underground minyanim during the Inquisition despite the risk of being tortured and being burned at the stake.
Behind the Iron Curtain in Russia, daring Jews dodged the KGB, y’mach shmam v’zichram, to daven with a minyan, risking the terrible fate of Siberia. More recently, inhabitants of Auschwitz, Bergen Belsen, Dachau, and Treblinka risked their lives to grab a Kaddish and Kedushah.
And so it has been throughout the ages. It is in our DNA to valiantly risk everything to congregate together to talk to Hashem. Our national psyche understands that especially in times of danger we need the power of tefillah b’tzibbur.
But then came Covid-19 and we had to make a huge adjustment in our behavior. Not only is it not an act of bravery to pray with a minyan now, it can actually be a sin as we may endanger ourselves or, chas v’shalom, cause others to die. It can also result in a severe chillul Hashem.
It’s important to bear in mind that the grave sin of chillul Hashem – which is so heinous that even Yom Kippur, teshuvah, and suffering do not rectify it – has never been so criminal as it is today with mass and social media. One mistake can go viral and generate a chillul Hashem all over the world.
Hopefully soon, at least for the youth, some restrictions will be lifted and many will be able to enjoy an amen, y’hay shmei rabba, a kedushah, and the sweet melody of krias HaTorah (perhaps even the leining of eight parshiyos in one sitting!).
But the “adjusting dynamic” I mentioned is really part of spiritually maturing, which takes place in other areas of life, too. Take, for example, the Bais Yaakov girl who has been taught rigorous tznius standards all her life and then gets married and has to make a big adjustment in relation to her husband. Or the masmid who chafes at minutes wasted in learning who gets married and now has to show eagerness to listen to his wife’s sometimes trivial words.
Consider the dedicated parent who loyally watched over her young child’s development, sternly rebuking any religious transgression who has to later adroitly adjust to occasional strategic silence when the child grows older. Or the mother who, for the first 25 years of her dear son’s life, was the only woman in his life, has to adjust diplomatically when her son gets married, taking a back seat to a much younger and often less mature daughter in-law.
The coronavirus pandemic has forced us to make major adjustments, too. Husbands who rarely saw their wife during the week now see her all day every day. Mothers who were used to sending their children to school for half the day now must oversee them the entire day.
It behooves us, whenever we are confronted with such adjustments to redouble our concentration when we say, “Chaneinu mei’itcha dei’ah, bina, v’haskeil – Please, Hashem, grace us with knowledge, intuition, and intellect.” We should also pay greater attention when saying “Sim Shalom” and “Shalom Rav.” We should realize that these adjustments are really the greatest growth opportunities.
May we navigate these challenges successfully, and, in that merit, may we be blessed with long life, good health, and everything wonderful.